Ballet X

March 8, 2005

Tara Keating (left) and Meredith Rainey in Matthew Neenan’s
Photo by Ted Lieverman


Ballet X
Arts Bank, Philadelphia, PA

March 8–9, 2005

Reviewed by Lewis Whittington


Take one new company—Ballet X, launched by Matthew Neenan and Christine Cox, two founders of the disbanded Phrenic New Ballet—and add composers from the Network for New Music, and the result is “Doubletake.” In this latest collaborative effort by The Dance Project, four short chamber music works were played alone and then as accompaniment to choreography. The musicianship and choreography were so strong that “Doubletake” wasn’t an experiment after all—it was vital dance theater.

In Cox’s Dancepiece, a trio in swirling counterpoint set to music by James Primosch and danced by Neenan, Tara Keating, and James Ihde (all on loan from Pennsylvania Ballet), her deceptively simple movement patterns break away to intriguing lifts, phrasing, and interplay in a sort of deconstructed classical jam. She followed that with Amore Scaduto (meaning “love, trashed”), a smoldering tryst for herself and her frequent partner, Meredith Rainey.

Ihde brought sensitive articulation to Rainey’s premiere of YangKo, a playful, meditative solo set to the crystalline music of Chen Yi. Dancing first in silhouette behind a white drape, Ihde ripped through Rainey’s explosive classicism, following it with delicate hand gestures made behind the curtain. When Ihde ripped down that curtain (which represented the “crap” of masculinity, Rainey said later), the expressive contrasts seemed like an anti-macho manifesto.

In Neenan’s Vibrate, two songs by bad-boy pop composer Rufus Wainwright, “Vibrate” and “Oh What a World,” were used as springboards for a string quintet by Robert Maggio. Cox, Keating, and Rainey joined Neenan in quick-tempo, asymmetric movement that directly interpreted the music’s tonal drama. Neenan’s dervish-like spins to face the musicians joyously represented the creative intimacy here.

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